Gun Company Agrees to Safety Standards





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President Clinton spoke with Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean and other city officials from around the country Friday to announce the settlement of a lawsuit with a major gun manufacturer.

The city of Berkeley joined 28 other cities in a lawsuit against gun manufacturers to force them to adhere to stricter safety guidelines in producing and distributing guns.

Smith and Wesson broke with other gun manufacturers in agreeing to a broad range of concessions, including providing trigger locks and developing technology that will allow only a gun's owner to operate it.

"This will fundamentally change the way the gun industry does business," Clinton said. "All of you will have the satisfaction that your leadership and involvement has come to make American communities safer."

Dean, who listened to the president on a speaker phone in her office and had an opportunity to speak to him, said hearing from Clinton was "awesome."

"I will also recommend (approving the settlement to the) council and I am sure they will approve," she said. "You are to be congratulated for what you have done. This is a historic first step."

Although Dean said the city will certainly approve the settlement, lawsuits with other manufacturers are still pending.

"I really believe that it was mayors coming together on this issue across the country, even if they did for different reasons, that has brought this thing about," Dean said. "We feel that this will probably bring the rest of them into a settlement."

Dean, who, along with other mayors, has been individually sued by the Second Amendment Foundation, said she has been a target of criticism for anti-gun-control advocates.

The lawsuit, which alleges Dean violated the constitutional rights of gun owners, was filed last year and is still pending. City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque is representing Dean in the suit.

Clinton, Dean and other public officials said they will put pressure on other manufacturers by favoring Smith and Wesson in government purchases.

Berkeley police Capt. Bobby Miller said the city already buys exclusively from Smith and Wesson. He said the police department supports the lawsuit.

But one gun advocate said Smith and Wesson betrayed the gun industry.

"This is an ill-conceived action on the part of one of the most revered names in the American firearms industry," Robert Delfay, CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said in a statement. "We are confident that no other manufacturers will desert."

Representatives of the National Rifle Association declined to comment on the settlement but said the lawsuit places the blame in the wrong place.

"It's akin to suing Chrysler when someone is drunk driving," said National Rifle Association spokesperson Trish Hylton. "The criminal should be held accountable."

Among other concessions, Smith and Wesson agreed to start manufacturing guns with hidden serial numbers that can only be operated by a key or combination. Guns will also include safety warnings citing the possibility of suicides and accidental deaths.

As part of the deal, Smith and Wesson are immune from further lawsuits brought by the mayors, and the agreement does not constitute an admission of any violation of law, rule or regulation by the company.

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